Some of you may think “three dog night” is a rock band from the seventies. There may be others that think this means the neighbor’s dogs are barking too much. Still others may think it means it is cold outside.

If you think that “three dog night” means that it is cold outside, you are thinking like me. Here’s why. Early in the 20th century people in Newfoundland had a practice of tucking a dog under the blankets to warm the bed on cold nights. Thus, this is the tradition of describing a cold spell as a three dog night meaning that it so cold that you need three dogs to keep you warm.

The point is that what we say or write and what others understand can vary. When communicating with customers via web copy, direct mail, advertising, or any other form of marketing communications, you need to anticipate how others might interpret your message.

Factors to consider:

1. Avoid the use of dead metaphors such as three dog night, since it has lost its original meaning or context.
2. Beware of cultural differences. For example, avoid the use of baseball expressions like “go to bat”; this is a very US centric expression.
3. Beware of language disparities. We use gasoline in the US while people in England use petrol.
4. Avoid gender bias. Advertisements tend to be male dominated; increasingly women make up the majority of decision makers and buyers.
5. Avoid clichés. It can be like “the blind leading the blind”.
6. Avoid mixing metaphors such “as much fun as shooting monkeys in a barrel”. What does that mean?

Stop and think before you communicate with your customers.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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1 Comment
  1. Anonymous

    “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

    Groucho Marx

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